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from those that walk uprightly. And though their sins against him might give them just cause to dread that wrath which they see they have merited, and beget in their minds painful suspicions and distressing fears; yet when they know that he hath so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but have everlasting life;" and when, being fully convinced of sin, they believe in Christ with a faith of the operation of God, and are justified by the faith of Christ ;--then does their dread of God's displeasure give place to a sense of his favour, and their doubts and fears respecting his goodness, yield te a confidence in his mercy, manifested in the pardon of all their sins through Jesus Christ. And then
" All the clouds
Thus knowing God as a reconciled Father, who has accepted them through the Beloved, and made them his children by adoption and grace, they trust in him for direction in all difficulties, protection in all dangers, succour in all troubles, and a supply of all their wants. And though they know they shall not be without chastisement, (for what son is he whom his father chasteneth not ?) yet do they know also that their heavenly Father chastiseth them, not willingly, but for their profit, and are persuaded that all things shall work together for their good, as they are conscious that they love God.
9. This leads me to mention another particular, never to be separated from the knowledge of God, which is, the love of God. For “ Love is of God, (says St. John) and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God: he that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love.” When the apostle says, God is love, he means both that God is lovely in himself, and also that he is loving
In his own nature, he is amiable, excellent, yea, absolutely perfect; and to all the creatures he hath made, to mankind in particular, he is infinitely gracious and beneficent: Therefore it is in the nature of things impossible to be acquainted with him and not to love him. Nor shall our love to this greatest and best of beings be merely a love of esteem due to his infinite perfections, or even a love of desire arising from a sense of our want of his presence and favour: but, over and above this, we shall also love him with a love of delight. We shall take complacency in his divine attributes, and in those relations in which he is pleased to stand to us ae
our Father and our Friend, and shall find our happiness in fellowship with him.
We shall be able to adopt the words of Jeremiah, saying, 6. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him ;" and those of the Psalmist, “ The Lord is the lot of mine inheritance, and the portion of my cup: the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage."
9. One thing more I shall notice here as a constant fruit of the knowledge of God, and that is, obedience. For“ He that saith, he knoweth God and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." So testifies the beloved disciple, and also adds, that “ Hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” And the same is the most sure and infallible proof of our love likewise, for “ This is the love of God, (says the same apostle,) “ that we keep his commandments ;” and, “ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, (declares the faithful and true Witness) he it is that loveth me.” So that a conscientious care to keep all the commandments of God, even those which flesh and blood dislike most, and to walk in all well-pleasing before him from day to day, is a dever-failing consequence of our knowledge of God, and love to him; and then, and only then, “shall we not be ashamed” of professing these endowments," when we have respect to all his commandments,” and “keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.”
10. And here I cannot but observe, upon the whole, how well the Scriptures guard the knowledge of God (which is only another word for true religion, on all sides against the false claims, which deluded men put in for it from opposite quarters. The selfrighteous Pharisee, who lays his own works, of which he has a mistaken opinion, as the foundation of his acceptance with God, is cut off by the two first of the particulars I have mentioned, for he is neither abased before God for his sins, nor has he an humble confi. dence in the divine mercy. The third of these marks, shows the emptiness of the formalist's boast, whose lukewarm heart and trifling spirit testify against bim, that he has not the love of God in him. And as for the Antinomian, who “makes void the law through faith,” and “ continues in sin because grace abounds,” he finds his reproof and condemnation in the last particular. For though he “ says he knows God,” (and indeed he has need to say it, for no one would have inferred it from his life,) yet because he “keepeth not his commandments,” we are sure that “ he is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
11. From this account of the knowledge of God, and its inseparable effects, it is easy to see who they are that know him not, and of consequence who they are upon whom Christ, at his second coming, will take vengeance. They are those who have no higher and better acquaintance with God, than that which they have attained by the exercise of their natural faculties and rational pow. ers, in the consideration of his word and works, having never received the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation (as the apostle speaks, Eph. i. 17.) in the knowledge of him." They are those who have never (as it were) seen him by faith, or been inwardly enlightened with a discovery of his glorious perfections, and therefore do not “ abhor themselves, and repent as in dust and ashes." They are those who do not know “God in Christ reconciling them unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them:" and therefore not being persuaded that he is “pacified towards them after all they have done,” they do not trust in him as a tender Father and a faithful Friend, in covenant with them through Jesus Christ. They are those who do not “ behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon them," and therefore do not consciously “ love him, who hath first loved them." They are those, lastly, who perhaps “profess to know God," but" by works deny him," not keeping his commandments, or keeping them merely in external things, and that with reluctance, from a principle of slavish fear, as though God were a hard master, and as though obedience to him were a task enjoined, which it would be our interest and happiness to be excused from performing.Upon all such will Christ, when he is revealed, take vengeance.
I now proceed to the other particular mentioned in our text, concerning the character of those whom our Lord will condemn.
II. They obey not the gospel of Christ.
A few observations on this point, will greatly illustrate what has already been advanced, and enable us still better to judge concerning our true state and condition. I mean to pursue the same method I did under the former head, showing positively what is implied in obeying the gospel, that we may infer from thence who they are that disobey it.
1. It will be easily understood what is meant by obeying the gospel, if we consider what the gospel is. And this may be learnt, in some measure, even from the original word, (translated gospel in the New Testament,) which, it is well known, signifies good
news, or glad tidings. Accordingly, what is termed gospel in the 4th of St. Luke, is translated good tidings in the 51st of Isaiah ; and the preachers of the gospel are represented in the same chapter, (ver. 7th) as bringing “ good tidings,” as publishing peace, as bringing good tidings of good, as publishing salvation. This then is the very essence of the gospel, good tidings, or tidings of good, even of peace and salvation, of peace with God, and salvation from sin and misery. To explain this a little.
2. The gospel brings us tidings of forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God, of free and full justification through faith in the Lord Jesus. It allows, indeed, nay, testifies, that “ there is none righteous, (by nature) no, not one, that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, that the whole world is guilty before God, that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” And in consequence of this, it declares, “ that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified in his sight.” But then, at the same time it assures us, that“ God hath set forth his Son to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness (both his justice and mercy) for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” It affrms, that “ God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and that he “ hath committed to his servants the word of reconciliation.” And hence they agree to offer pardoning mercy to all penitent sinners, and to bear witness, that “ whosoever believeth in Christ doth receive forgiveness of sins ;" yea, that “ by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified” by their own obedience.
3. Hence it appears what it is to obey the gospel in this view of it, as it is a manifestation of pardoning mercy through a Mediator. It is, 1st. To see and feel ourselves guilty before God, and therefore to renounce all confidence in our own righteousness, from a conviction of its insufficiency for our justification. It is, 2dly, To apply to the all-sufficient merits of our Redeemer with penitent hearts, forsaking our sins, and putting our whole trust in him for salvation, present and eternal. It is, 3dly, Firmly to believe and appropriate to ourselves God's gracious promises of pardon and everlasting life, made to us for his sake. This is implied in believing in Christ, and all who thus believe, are “ justified by the faith of Christ," and, in this respect, obey the gospel.
4. Indeed we cannot thu eve of ourselves ; but then for our comfort, the gospel is further a dispensation of the Spirit of God,
given to work this faith in us, witness this justification to our souls, and sanctifying our nature, to restore us to that image of God in which we were originally created. It supposes that our “ sins have separated between us and God," and caused bim to hide his face from us, whence “ we are alienated from the life of God, and even dead in trespasses and sins.” It takes for granted, (and well it may, for it is a matter of daily and universal observation, confirmed by experience) that we are altogether depraved and polluted through sin, insomuch that “every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil, and that continually :” from which corrupt fountain the most pernicious streams are perpetually flowing ; 80 that we are earthly, sensual, and devilish ; all our tempers, words, and works, being in direct opposition to the law of God.—But then, notwithstanding, yea, because of this depravity and ruin of our once pure and perfect nature, and, with a view to its removal, it informs us that as Christ“ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification,” so, “ being exalted to the Father's right hand, he hath received the promise of the Iloly Ghost,” which he “sheds forth abundantly" on the children of men, inviting all that thirst, yea, and whosoever will, to come and partake of it.
5. Now this Spirit is an universal remedy for all the disorders of our fallen nature.—Hereby the darkness is removed from our minds, and the hardness from our hearts; our understanding is enlightened, our will subdued, our affections set upon things above, and all our unholy tempers and corrupt inclinations purged away. Hereby we “die unto sin, and live unto righteousness ;” “put off the old man, and put on the new.” By this, the divine nature is communicated to us, and the divine image stamped upon us; we are transformed into the likeness, and conformed to the will of God. Here wisdom lights her lamp, and from hence love kindles her fire. This feeds the flames of devotion, and without this, prayer and praise are cold and languid. By this, the life of God is opened in the soul, and the kingdom of God set up in the heart. Being joined to the Lord, we become one spirit with him, and we dwell in him and he in us. In a word, heaven is brought down upon earth, and an earnest of our future inheritance is given us, until the full redemption of the purchased possession.
6. But be it observed, though this Spirit more or less enlightens and strives with all (as appears not only from Scripture, but also from experience, all men, the most abandoned not excepted, having at one time or another, felt remorse on account of sin, and some desire after holiness,) yet in these his saving influences, he is only